In my next life I’ll have curly red hair, will sing on-key and will be able to draw what I see. Once I did take the plunge and hennaed and permed my hair—but it just wasn’t “me” (at least not in this lifetime.) My high hopes for singing and drawing were squelched back in high school when classes in these disciplines were required.

When moving me to the back row of the choir was not enough to hide my abrasive voice, I was “invited” to accompany on my guitar which may or may not have been an improvement. I got the hint and kept my singing under wraps—only belting out when I was alone with Joan Armatrading or Bonnie Raitt. 

In 10th grade art class, it was obvious that I did not have the aptitude for any project, except maybe decoupage. That was when I first observed raw talent—one boy, who was otherwise inconspicuous, hadan incredible knack for art. My envy went beyond mere jealousy. Oh! to be able to pick up a pencil and draw the bowl of fruit right in front of me. Alas, the first scrawl seemed like a good start, but the second touch to the paper never “worked.” What I really craved was to have a sketchbook in my pocket and go for a walk in the woods and lean against a tree and draw what was in the view. Sure, in years to come I could scribble the outline of France or draw a few lines that resembled the Eiffel Tower, but I never created ART until I began putting food on a plate (does that count?) Colors and shapes all made sense and at last I had an outlet for my creative urges. 

Fast forward a few years and my 4-year-old daughter Ema is doodling with her crayons and all of a sudden looks up at me and says, “STOP right there, don’t move.” With one eye closed and the other seeing straight through me, she peers up from her toddler’s chair and proceeds to draw what she is looking at—large nostrils and quite a small forehead! Many astonishing sketches followed, in fact on more than one occasion a teacher called me to say, “You have to see what your child has done.” No stick figures for my kid—our family portrait done in first grade included dimples and freckles and layered perspective.  

Even the wall-sized panoramas in the Louvre did not daunt this pint-sized art wiz—Ema pulled out her sketch pad and drew what she could see at eye level—which in one case was the feet of the Horatii. Once in the shadow of the Sacre Coeur she and her dad studied the pigeon we were feeding with the crumbs of our lunch and sketched it from all angles and having exhausted what seemed like all the possible views of a pigeon, Ema made last one drawing—from underneath. 

Nature and nurture? All I know is that ART flourishes in her heart and flows in her veins and out through her fingers. There is not one medium that has flummoxed her talent. All I could do as she blossomed in her craft was to accompany her to the art supply and observe while she carefully selected her tools then stand back and watch with awe as the magic happened. 

Her numerous self-portraits over the years illustrate many sides of her creativity and mood. The most accomplished and thrilling to my mind is the self-caricature of a beaming Ema embracing the globe she had recently circumvented. If this is what she sees when she looks in the mirror—all is well with the world.

I have always believed that one looks more deeply and thoroughly at what one intends to capture in art. I still itch to be able to draw simple sketches of what I see—perhaps in my next life. 

Perhaps, for now, writing a story about it is the next best thing. 

One thought on “In My Next Life by Anne Sterling-Alsina

  1. I too wish I could sing. I content myself by singing in the car with the windows rolled up. My identical twin sister has the art talent. Same genes, different talents. Regardless, I have purchased a book (used) that tells me I can paint birds in gardens. Singing and painting don’t have to be good, just fun.

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